First Aid: Choking

Call 911 if the victim loses consciousness.

Choking occurs when the airway to the lungs becomes blocked, placing the victim's life in danger. Start rescue techniques right away.

Illustration showing a woman choking, a man grabbing her around her stomach from behind, and using his fist and hand to perform the choking rescue technique.

Look for a hand raised to the throat, an instinctive response to choking.

1. Identify choking

  • Ask the victim if he or she is choking. If the person cannot speak, say that you will help.

  • Do not slap the victim on the back. This may force the object lower into the airway.

Illustration showing the choking woman bending over the back of a chair to perform choking self-rescue.

2. Grasp from behind

  • Move behind the victim. Slide your palms under his or her arms, bringing your hands together in front of the victim's body.

  • Make a fist with one hand, placing the flat surface of the thumb and first finger above the belt line.

  • Note: If pregnancy or extreme overweight makes this impossible, give thrusts inward against the middle of the victim's breastbone.

3. Thrust in and up

  • Cover your fist with the other hand, keeping your elbows away from your body.

  • Pull in and up quickly, using hard thrusts to force air from the victim's lungs. This pops out the blockage.

  • Repeat thrusts until the victim coughs or speaks.